Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sneaker Pimps NYC

On Friday June 26th 2009 I attended the Sneaker Pimps show in NYC.  The decision to go to this concert was pretty easy, I love sneakers, I love Hip-Hop and I love New York, it literally would have taken a pack of wild dogs to keep me out of this event.  The following is a log of the night’s events:

8:15 pm: I arrive at Terminal 5 with Don Comerica (who, contrary to some reports, is not related to Prime Minister Pete Nice from 3rd Bass) after a 2 hour car ride from my house that is approximately 10 miles from Manhattan.  This is another case of my confusion with the economic downturn: if everybody is broke why are people flocking to one of the most expensive cities in the world to the point where traffic is slowed down to the pace that Dr. Dre releases solo albums?  

As soon as we arrive I decide I am a big fan of the venue.  Terminal 5 consists of three levels with views of the stage plus a rooftop bar.  Every level has a bar and restrooms and booths lined every wall of the building with displays dedicated to Sneakers/Fashion and Video Games.  While I never say hippie sh*t like this, I have to admit, shows like this are good for the culture.  They give upstart companies and artists an opportunity to find an audience and provide a good time for fans for a reasonable price ($30 with tax and handling fees).  After closer inspection, it became clear that while “Sneaker Pimps” is known as the premier traveling sneaker show in the world, this distinction carries considerably less weight in NYC, where exclusive shops can be found every few blocks.  And while some of the collections were pretty cool and a few of the new companies showed promise, the major players in the NY/NJ sneaker game (ALife, Supreme, Rare Breed, etc.) were conspicuously absent.  

After a quick trip around the exhibits, Don and I posted up on the 3rd level balcony looking right at the stage where we would have a great view of the artists and half-pipe riding skateboarders on the stage the entire night.  

The crowd was pretty mellow, consisting mainly of the typical backpacker/underground heads that were dressed to the 9’s because it was a sneaker show and a concert. I, however, bucked this trend and dressed like a migrant farm worker with a drab T-shirt, ill fitting jeans and a beat up pair of Doc Marten’s because when I left Jersey there was a severe thunderstorm warning (the kind where The Weather Channel is reporting what to do if you or someone you know is struck by lightning) and I did not want to ruin a pair of Spiz’ikes to impress these people. Also, Nike’s Air Yeezy is probably not nearly as rare as the fashion media will have people believe because there were at least 100 pairs in the house that night. 

8:30 pm: Legendary DJ Clark Kent is destroying the crowd with one of the sickest DJ sets I have heard in years.  He’s cutting up 90’s classics like “Throw Ya Gunz,” “Incarcerated Scarfaces” and “Brooklyn’s Finest” like it's the summer of ’96 at The Palladium (note: The Palladium was hot between The Rooftop and The Tunnel…do your homework!).  

9:30 pm: Clark Kent is still killing it.

9:45pm: Finally some action.  New Duck Down Record’s act Facelift hit the stage and despite being dressed like imbeciles actually show some promise.  About half way through their set Duck Down founder and member of the legendary Black Moon, Buckshot, steps on stage and does a few songs with Facelift and segues right into a medley of Black Moon classics.  During this string of throwbacks, Sean Price wanders on stage and despite a shout out from Clark Kent, is barely acknowledged and does not get on the mic.  While it is perplexing why Duck Down’s most relevant artist would not perform if he was already on the stage, it was definitely cool to see this mini-reunion and hear “I Gotcha Opin” live.  

10:00pm:  A group from Houston calling themselves “Ferris Bueller” take the stage and while their attire and antics causes many (myself and Don included) to write them off, by the middle of their set they have actually proven themselves and have most of the crowd rocking with them.

10:15: An old white woman in a denim jacket gets on the turntables and proceeds to play music that is unidentifiable to most of the crowd and not clearly in any genre.  She attempts to recover from ruining the vibe by playing Arrested Development's "Everyday People" and miraculously it works.

10:30pm: Wale comes on and does about 5 solid songs, including the new single.  He takes a break to give two pairs of limited edition Nike boots to lucky fans when some clown yells "GET OFF THE STAGE!" Exactly what happened next was hard to determine from my 3rd level view, but it definitely involved Wale threatening the dude and then going into the crowd and swinging on him during his finale, the appropriately titled "Nike Boots." Once the fan was removed (I think) and Wale was subdued the night continued.

11:15pm: The Cool Kids take the stage and do damn near every song they have recorded.  I was totally unaware of this group before the show, but look forward to hearing more of their stuff.

12:15am: DJ Clark Kent gets behind the turntables and begins to play some current hits, which is going well until the needle drops on Soulja Boy's "Turn My Swag On" a few backpackers near the front of the stage start to boo and one apparently gave Clark Kent the finger because the DJ then launched into a profane and homophobic tirade that sounded something like this:

"Giving the finger is gay...you are a faggot...you don't go to clubs...I live and die this sneaker shit...they are just rubber and leather...don't pay $400 for $200 joints...I'm so Brooklyn...I told Wale he handled his situation wrong, but I will F**k you up!....I'm so Brooklyn"

He then proceeded to throw his sneakers into the crowd as did everybody else on stage.  At this point the crowd was not sure if the show was over or not because everybody that had performed was onstage, Clark Kent's comments sounded like a finale (with some threats thrown in) and every performer was on stage sans shoes.  

12:30am: Jadakiss steps on the stage and does a high energy medley of solo material and hits from D-Block/The Lox.  This was truly a testament to the power of a good live performer, by the time the beat dropped on "Money, Power, Respect" the crowd was oblivious to the facts that they had been standing for close to five hours and saw artists attack fans...twice.

1:15am: Big Boi came out and performed most of Outkast's big hits and a few solo songs.  While he's a solid live performer, watching him do "Rosa Parks" or "Mrs. Jackson" without Andre 3000 is like spending a grand on court side tickets to the Cavaliers and finding out that Labron James is not playing, but Zydrunas Ilgouskas will be getting all of his minutes.  It's not terrible, it's just not what you really want to see.

1:45am: The Clipse come out and perform 3 songs to an ecstatic crowd.  The performance is ended by either Malice or Pusha-T (I could not tell which one) exclaiming "We are the best two man rap group...EVER!" This sentiment was immediately followed by DJ Clark Kent co-signing and saying "EVERY two man crew has a weak link...The Clipse have no weak link." While Hip-Hop fans can obviously argue this opinion ad nauseam, it was a bit odd to make this point right after Big Boi from Outkast left the stage. Outkast has won like a dozen Grammys, countless other awards, sold millions of albums, made consistently listenable and innovative music and put the south on the map, all while being...a two man group!

2:00am: A full 8 hours after the doors opened Sneaker Pimps NYC 2009 was over. 

To my surprise Don Comerica has posted copious amounts of pictures and video from the show on his facebook page.  While The Clipse's place in history can be argued, what can not is that Don is the greatest bootleg pic/video taker in the world. I stood next to the dude for 8 hours and did not see him operate a camera once, the fact that he got so much footage without anyone noticing is truly a testament to his prowess at deceit and trickery.   

Thursday, June 25, 2009

iPhone 3Gs: The First 48 Hours

Let's get this straight, I don’t watch reality TV, gorge myself on fast food, abuse prescription medication, obsessively follow sports, listen to pop music, buy every piece of useless technology on the market, go into debt to buy items that I don’t want or need or care even a little bit about “Jon & Kate.” However, every once-in-a-while something comes around that is so big, so epic, so inarguably cool, that it breaks me and I am forced to give into the hype (the NFL playoffs, The Pussycat Dolls and Super Hero Movies come to mind immediately). Apple’s iPhone absolutely falls into this category.

Prior to Friday June 19th, 2009 I was a regular guy with a regular phone. I could make and receive calls, text message and take bad pictures and I was blissfully unaware of how cool “smart phones” could actually be. I had been thinking of upgrading to an iPhone for several months, but being locked into a Verizon contract and the looming release of the iPhone 3Gs forced me to wait until last week to jump on board and it has absolutely been worth the wait. Because I do not live under a rock, I was well aware that the release of any new hardware from Apple is an EVENT and people wait outside the stores (which open at 7am) in amusement park-style “Z-Lines” to get their hands on this new item before anybody else. I visited an AT&T store a week early and pre-purchased the iPhone so there was no need to sleep outside in order to get one on the day of release (I am an obsessive sneaker collector, but the idea of actually sleeping outside a store is a little crazy, even by my standards). I paid $212 for a receipt and a promise that there would be an iPhone 3Gs waiting for me on June 19th.

As June 19th approached I was giddy like a school girl, I had literally not been this excited since I was standing in line to see “The Dark Knight” in IMAX. As I entered the Ocean county mall I saw a huge line outside the AT&T store and I figured I was in for a long afternoon of waiting to hook my phone up. As I approached the store, I realized the line was for Auntie Anne Pretzels and actually reached past the AT&T store (Note: Auntie Anne’s is possibly the greatest business model of all time. They sell a few pennies worth of dough for $3 and people line up in malls all over the country to get it.) The following is my account of my first 48 hours with the iPhone 3Gs.

FRIDAY 6/19/2009
I’m in the AT&T store and I am jacked! I proudly hand some guy my receipt and he goes in the back to get my phone, by now my heart is pounding and I am noticeably sweating. When he comes out to talk about plans I get the one I wanted (Unlimited text, Unlimited Data and 450 minutes that rollover), buy some insurance that comes with a case, transfer my number (919!), and walk out of the store feeling like I just really accomplished something. In retrospect I realize I accomplished nothing, I paid for a product and service that millions of other people utilize and anyone with a few hundred dollars and dream could have done the same thing, but at the time I was more ecstatic than Mos Def.

I walk out of the store and begin sending texts and calling people from the phone. It is a Friday and the Ocean County Mall is already starting to fill up with the normal high school crowd: dudes in varsity jackets, goth kids, girls dressed like they are going to work at the Go-Go Rama and I can tell they all think I’m cool because I have the best phone ever. This is why I really wanted it, to impress high school delinquents at the mall…mission accomplished.

I get home and start customizing my options. I update some contacts, delete some contacts (if you never hear from me again, just figure you didn’t make the cut and keep it moving) and set up my email. I sync the iPhone to my hotmail account and feel a little subversive about it. Checking a Microsoft email on an Apple product feels like listening to that leaked Biggie (“I got 7 mac-11’s…) and Tupac track before it was released.

I continue to configure my iPhone and send emails and texts to people for no apparent reason. I contemplate downloading some Apps, but then reconsider because I don’t want to start the process on an empty stomach.

I sync my iTunes to my iPhone. Here it is, over 1,000 Hip-Hop songs and Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits on my phone! I opt to not load my movies into the phone because I don’t’ feel the need to have “Notorious” and five episodes of MTV’s “The State” with me at all times.

I try to sleep, which is difficult because my heart rate has only slightly decreased and I have not stopped perspiring since I left the mall.

After laying awake and thinking about my phone for two full hours I finally fall asleep.

Saturday June 20th 2009

It is raining for the 38th consecutive day, of course I knew this would happen because I used my iPhone to check the weather forecast before I went to sleep.

After a long run to calm my a** down before a full day of iPhone enjoyment I begin the process of downloading Apps.

I download ESPN’s “ScoreCenter.” Even though I do not really enjoy sports myself and do not need to know if the Raptors beat the Hornets at a moment’s notice, I feel the need for this App so if I’m out and somebody says “Did you see who won ________________” I can definitively say “Yes!” and then give them the score.
I spend a while putting my settings into the App (favorite teams, leagues, etc) and immediately realize that the only sport being played right now that I’m even remotely interested in is MLB, so I probably didn’t have to agonize whether I wanted to follow the Cavs or Lakers until October. Well, at least I got it out of the way and even though it is 2 ½ half months away, I eagerly anticipate the Jets kicking off their season and following every game as it happens.

Fandango-Movie times for anywhere in the world and the ability to buy tickets over the phone! Like “ScoreCenter” I don’t have a big need for this App right now, but when the second “Iron Man” comes out, I’ll be happy I have it.

12 noon:
Lunch Break-I attempt to use the included “Maps” App to find the nearest Subway (I know damn well where it is, but I wanted to test the GPS). Unfortunately, the included software does not have voice commands for turn-by-turn directions and it is difficult and dangerous to look at the handset while driving. I have heard there are paid Apps available that will announce directions just like traditional GPS systems, but I have not experimented with them yet. However, I am more than willing to pay a few bucks to make a several hundred dollar GPS system that I bought less than a year ago completely obsolete. The Drive-Walk-Public Transportation options are pretty cool and once I get the voice App for directions this should be one of the best features of the iPhone.

BJ’s Wholesale Club-While enjoying a Tuscan Chicken Footlong I get an email from Amber DeLeggas asking me to pick up a digital camera that is on sale at BJ’s. The email included a link to BJ’s website with a picture and the specifications of the camera. Now this was some space-age-sh*t! The phone made buying the wrong item practically impossible and it allowed me to know about sales, rebates and availability before I got to the store…now we’re talking.
I buy the camera and text Amber that the order is completed along with an itemized bill and I am on my way back home to get some more Apps.

iTrade (TDAmeritrade)-I download an App that will allow me to check my stock portfolio anywhere, anytime, anyplace, no questions asked. I see that my account is up $80 bucks*…time for some paid Apps!

(*After completing an MBA, reading several books on investing and following the market since my sophomore year in highs school I am still perplexed as to how I can own what I consider a significant amount of stock in Apple and on one of the biggest days in company history my shares only increase the value of a pair of Air Force One’s. Apparently I am not nearly as bright or as good as an investor as I thought…awesome)

5:00 PM
It’s almost time for dinner so I download “Uraban Spoon” in an effort to find the best place to eat in a 20 mile radius. The “Slot Machine” feel of this App, combined with the extensive restaurant listings, reviews and link to directions make it fun and useful. While the App did provide a link to a good Chinese restaurant minutes from my house I was somewhat disappointed that after 10 spins there appears to be only one moderately priced taco restaurant in Seaside Park (Surf Taco).

9:00 pm
While sitting in a semi-crowded movie theatre waiting for the horrendous “Year One” to start I begin playing with my iPhone, and this is where it really shines. While these other fools are watching previews for 3-D horror movies I’m checking my email (none), texting people (that proceed to ignore me) and seeing if the Yankees beat the Marlins (they did not).

12:00 Midnight
I lay in bed physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted from my first day with Apps. I begin thinking of new Apps that should be developed. The best idea I have is for one called “iMarry” that will allow couples with iPhones to propose to each other and make wedding plans exclusively using their iPhones. Just imagine the following info being typed on the iPhone’s beautiful 3.5 in. touch screen:
iGroom: Would you like to be APP-ily married?
iBride: APP-solutely!
iGroom: Thanks for all the great APP-vice, would you be my best man
iBestMan: I’d by App-y To!

The possibilities are truly endless.

Sunday June 21st 2009
10:00 am
Now that I’ve set up my iPhone to handle my day-to-day affairs (calls, email, finanances, etc.), I begin to search for Apps about my favorite topic: Hip-Hop. I immediately download “Hip-Hop Official” that will allow me to have access to unlimited amounts of Hip-Hop news, gossip, new tracks and video. Finally, I can read about beefs, video vixens and rumored Wu-Tang reunions without being near my computer.

10:30 am
Def Jukebox: This App provides news, blogs, message boards and a constant stream of music from my favorite record label, Def Jux. I am now able to listen to underground Hip-Hop all day long on my phone. I fully realize I was kind of able to do this before with my iPod, but this is still pretty cool.

I spend the last two hours sitting in my room with a smug look of satisfaction on my face and enjoy the iPhone quietly by myself.

Overall Apple’s iPhone 3Gs is great product. The Apps make several facets of life much more convenient and the service and speed is amazing. This is one of the few product I have purchased that completely lived up to the hype.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Over and Under Rated 6 (2009)


Pop songs with “Secret Meanings”

Multi-layered metaphors are fairly common in Hip-Hop (think Common’s “I Used To Love H.E.R. or 2Pac’s “Me & My Girlfriend”), however pop stars are now trying to follow the lead of rappers by incorporating double entendres and extended metaphors into singles in an effort to generate buzz and keep people talking...needless to say, these attempts often end with embarrassing results.  The trend was started last winter with Brittany Spear’s ridiculously titled “If U Seek Amy,” which when sung sounds suspiciously like “F.U.C.K. Me.” The song fails because the identity of “Amy” and why people are looking for her is never addressed, the song doesn’t make any sense unless the listener hears “F.U.C.K. Me”  There simply is no double meaning, it is just an obscene song with a poorly spelled titled. “All of the boys and all of the girls want to...If U Seek Amy” 

You sure about that Brit? It’s not 2001 anymore. 

This trend is being continued by Beyonce’s “Ego.” Am I really supposed to believe lyrics like “It’s too big, it’s too wide, it won’t fit” are about anything but a penis? And while Brittany’s infraction is somewhat acceptable because her songs are written and composed by employees of a media conglomerate with a keen eye towards things like “demographic research,” “focus group responses” and “radio playability” with absolute disdain for artistry and expression, Beyonce is married to one of the greatest song writers of all time.  It is hard to believe someone that lives with the man responsible for metaphoric masterpieces like “Rap Game/Crack Game” could release such a clumsily worded single.  

These “hidden messages” cater to the lowest common denominator of society and only generate controversy with teeny-boppers and soccer-moms, but if it gives them something to talk about while driving to a strip mall in a minivan to buy a Big Gulp and some toquitos before American Idol starts, well good for them.

College Graduates Aspiring to be Housewives

There seems to be an ever-increasing segment of college-educated females that long for the stereotypical “Prince Charming/Happily Ever After” life that comes from marrying a rich professional, business man or dude from a family with money.  I am not referring to the typical hood-rat or “video vixen” that tries incessantly to get impregnated by a rapper or athlete because they have no other means to support themselves besides their looks (I have strong feelings about these women too, but that’s for another day), I am referring to girls with degrees and skills that have no desire to accomplish anything but supervising the cleaning lady and watching “The Tyra Banks Show” three times a day.  

I know that working sucks. I know that most jobs are meaningless, unrewarding and in most cases lead to nothing but stress and a diminishing 401K, but if these women never wanted to be a part of the workforce, why did they waste the time, effort and money on a college education? A bachelor’s degree costs minimum $40,000, I don’t care if you went to a technical school with two directions in the name (i.e. North West Kentucky Tech), nobody gets out for less than ten grand a year, after books, meal plans, parking tickets and a D.U.I. lawyer are added up.  Conversely, about $10,000 (about a quarter of the cost of college) in plastic surgery, beauty treatments and clothes can turn the worst skank in the world into somebody on Maxim’s “Hot 100”, or at least the hottest chick in the bar on a Wednesday.  And to keep it 100% real, a female with fake boobs, expertly styled hair and Jimmy Choo’s has a much better chance at landing a rich husband than some normal looking chick with degree in Criminal Justice.  

Chain Emails

They are never funny and tragedy does not ensue if you don’t forward them!  The internet has been a big part of American society for over a decade and people have not figured out how to not be buffoonish with the technology.  Further, I am Italian and from New Jersey and I am sent emails on a weekly basis mocking those two facts (i.e. “10,000 ways you know you are from New Jersey” or “Ginny’s at the Beach!”), I am not easily offended but I find it hard to believe other groups receive these emails with the disturbing frequency that I do.  If I was overweight I am willing to bet nobody would send me an email titled “You Know You’re a Fat Ass If...” I know I’m Italian and I know I’m from Jersey, I don’t need to take a quiz or read and asinine list to confirm it.  


The Stupidity of Mariah Carey

The most successful artist of the ’90’s fell off after “Glitter” and made one of the biggest comebacks in history with 2005’s “The Emancipation of Mimi.”  Then in 2008 she flopped with the underwhelming “E=MC2.” She is now attempting her second comeback of the decade by dissing Eminem on the autotune-heavy “Obsessed” written by The Dream.  First, the song is not that bad and has probably already sold thousands of ringtones since it was “leaked” on Tuesday. And the song does have some redeeming qualities: it was written by The Dream and it is a diss record (two things I really like), however it also uses auto-tune and disses Eminem (two things I hate).

There are so many reasons why this 40 year old pop star should not have responded to Slim Shady’s “Bagpipes From Bagdad” that they are hard to count (she is not a rapper, her fans don’t care about Eminem, she could sell millions of records without ever addressing this, “Bagpipes From Bagdad” is not even a single, if she released a big powerful ballad like “We Belong Together” the general public wold forget about this whole thing).  But the biggest single reason she should not have responded to Em’s taunts are his track record.  Marshall Mathers ends careers...period.  The only way to withstand the sh*t storm that ensues when he mentions your name is to sit down, shut up, keep your eyes on the floor and hope it passes like a bad thunderstorm.  It is kind of odd that Brittany Spears is one of the few celebrities to have figured this out and she is still selling out arenas and having massive hits (regardless of how stupid the lyrics) because of it.  Unless Mariah Carey wants to be in the “Where Are They Now” category with Limp Bizkit, Moby, Canibus and Benzino she should retract the song, put out a disposable, overly-produced, 80’s-sampled dance record and keep it moving. 

NOTE: There is also a remix of “Obsessed” featuring OJ The Juice Man.  The idea of Shady attacking him and other non-lyrical southern goons is infinitely more exciting than another song about his affair with Mariah. Further, the use of auto-tune could be viewed as a swipe at Jay-Z (see “D.O.A. Death of Autotune”). If there is one person that can get in the ring with the two best rappers alive, it’s obviously Mariah Carey.    

The Stupidity of the Current Class of New Rappers

Every few years a “New Class” (shout out to “Saved By The Bell”) of MC’s emerges to take the crown from the previous generation.  Every class has winners (the class of '98 had DMX, Pun, Cam) and every class has losers (the class of 98 also had Canibus and Silkk the Shocker), but the current group of emerging artists engages in behavior that is so stupid and so at odds with becoming major players in the industry it is hard to believe they even want to “get on.”  This behavior is even less acceptable because these guys are all in their early 20’s, so they grew up with Hip-Hop as a multi-billion dollar, international industry, are fully aware of the power of technology & new media outlets and in some cases they are being mentored by some of the best in the game.  Despite all of these resources the following has already happened in 2009:

Asher Roth: Refers to his female fans at Rutgers University as “Nappy Headed H*s” on his twitter page.  Clearly the way for a white rapper that many think is a novelty act to sustain a career in Hip-Hop is to insult fans and identify with one of the most reviled men in the African-American community. 

Kid Cudi: “Day N Night” had people losing their minds last winter and was the unofficial theme song of the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.  After being invited to perform at a party sponsored by Reebok as his introduction to the national spotlight (even though the song was bubbling for a few months, most people didn’t even know what he looked like), this guy behaves in a manner so imbecilic that Reebok employees have to taser him before he performs and the show is cancelled. 

Slaughterhouse: These guys get the internet going nuts at the idea of 4 sick MC’s in one group (and the videos of Joey Jumpoff’s girlfriend) and then start an asinine beef with legends before the album comes out.  I understand that all publicity is good publicity, but I am confused as to how dissing Method Man, Redman and Busta Rhymes is good for Slaughterhouse, their upcoming album or Hip-Hop in general. 

OJ The Juice Man: Make’s his first potential crossover appearance on a song dissing Eminem...brilliant.

Charles Hamilton: Here is the abbreviated list-makes a song about “Brooklyn Girls” even though he is from Harlem, releases numerous viral videos espousing a bizarre affection for Sonic The Hedgehog, gets publicly humiliated in battles by legends (Rhymefest) and newcomers (Serius Jones) alike, got knocked out by a girl on camera and started a baffling beef with the entire city of Detroit about his relationship with the deceased J-Dilla that resulted in a tongue lashing from Dilla’s mother and a complete ban from the entire Mid-Western region of the United States. 

With this being the new crop of MC’s to carry the torch for Hip-Hop, I am forced to quote Jay-Z’s “Thirty Something”....”I’m afraid of the future.” 

Friday, June 12, 2009

2 More Things Reviewed

The following were left off my previous post because apparently "Cut & Paste" is harder to master for me than most people. See below for scoring system.

Joel Ortiz Covers The Classics (mixtape)


This mixtape compiles 33 Joel Ortiz freestyles over classic (mostly late 80's and early 90's) beats that were recorded over the last two or three years. Joel murders these tracks with one blistering verse each and every "song" stops short to segue way into the next, making each song short, with an abrupt ending...much like life.

Joel Ortiz is the best unsigned rapper in 2009 and Aftermath made a bigger mistake by dropping him than they did with Joe Beast. Look out for Slaughterhouse! (note: the SH album has been pushed back to 8/11...the summer just cooled off).

The Hangover


This movie is the most fun you can have in a theatre without Alanis Morissette. I laughed out loud the whole time and broke into tears on three separate occasions. Every scene is funny, every joke works and "Andy Bernard," "That funny looking comedian" and "The hot one (No homo)" should all be huge stars by the end of summer. If you do not see this movie in the theatre and buy it on Blu Ray the day it comes out you are not smart...period.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Reviews June 2009

I realize I’ve been gone for a minute but now I’m back and ready to GO HARD with the Fifthround Movement! (I wanted to start off by sounding both cool and tough...mission accomplished)  In the last few weeks I have experienced several CD’s and Movies that I feel the need to write about, and because of the sheer number of releases that will be discussed I am going to assign a rating system to everything in this posting so readers have some frame of reference.  

Examples of each possible score are as follows: 

5: The Marshall Mather’s LP, Grape Jordan 5’s, Season 2 of The Office, The Dark Knight...aka undisputed classics

4: Wu-Tang Forever, Air Max 97’s, Season 4 of The Office, the first Spiderman movie...almost classic, just falls a little short.  

3: Most Mixtapes, Air Stab’s, Desperate Housewives, X3: The Last Stand...not terrible, but definitely an acquired taste.

2: Eminem’s “Encore,” Jordan + AF1 Hybrids, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Ghost Rider...barely tolerable for most, but cool for devoted fans.

1: Anything by the Black Eyed Peas, Sketchers, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Straight to DVD movies...just effin horrible.  

Eminem: “Relapse”


Devoted fans like myself have been waiting for almost five years for the official return of Slim Shady (“The Re-Up” and that half-assed verse about the Pussy Cat Dolls on the Akon song don’t count) and while “Relapse” is a bit of a mixed bag, Eminem largely delivers.  

The theme of the album is made abundantly clear before you even press “play” due to the title and artwork depicting Shady’s face made of various pills and a “prescription” from Dr. Dre on the cover.  While this level of commitment to the concept of “Relapse” is a little heavy handed, both Em and Dre should be applauded for creating a concept album with cohesive ideas and themes instead of the obligatory collection of random singles most artists present as albums.  And While not everything works (the drug references get exhausting, the party records/singles seem forced) there are moments of unadulterated brilliance (“My Mom,” “Deja Vu” and “Underground” come to mind immediately).  This is technically the best album of 2009, the beats (all provided by Dr. Dre, except the self-produced “Beautiful”) are so rich, multi-layered and fit so perfectly with the subject matter that they leave nothing to be desired and as an MC this might be Eminem at his best, while he doesn’t have as much to say as he did earlier in his career he has absolutely found better ways of saying it.  He uses more experimental cadences, flows, and rhyme patterns than any other rapper and goes as far as changing his voice on several songs.  While this “rapping in voices” schtick angers some fans, it is hard to imagine another rapper being able to pull it off with any degree of success and the fact that Shady can rap circles around your favorite rapper in an annoying voice with questionable subject matter and you still have to listen is a true testament to his talents. 

The one fact that should not be overlooked when listening to “Relapse” is that the man that started his debut album off with a sarcastic “don’t do drugs” has succeeded where 20 years of the “Just Say No” program and America’s “War on Drugs” has failed...he makes drug addiction actually sound scary.  The Eminem that has almost overdosed, been hospitalized multiple times and had to halt one of the biggest careers in Hip-Hop history due to prescription pill addiction is a far cry from the cocky young man that “OD’d on rush, mushrooms and dust / then got rushed to the hospital to get my system flushed.”    While it remains to be seen whether this album actually deters people from abusing narcotics, it does paint a chilling picture of the toll pharmaceuticals take on one’s personal, professional and family lives.  

Finally, assigning a number rating to an Eminem album is nearly impossible because of the uniqueness of what he does.  When grading most albums they are inevitably compared to similar works (Example: this spring albums by Jadakiss, Cam’Ron, Rick Ross and Jim Jones will all be given reviews based on how they compare to each other because the material is similar enough that comparison is possible...this happens whether reviewers and fans do it consciously or not). Eminem’s albums almost exist in a vacuum in the sense that artists that rap like him with regard to experimental flows, outlandish subject matter and a warped sense of humor are usually underground artists with a fraction of the budget and sales expectations of an Eminem-caliber artist.  Similarly, rappers that sell even close to “Marshall Mathers Numbers” (Diddy, Nelly, Black Eyed Peas) make formulaic Hip-Pop with it’s creativity hamstrung by major label politics.  That being said...I give it a 4. 

Company Flow: “Funcrusher Plus”


Underground Hip-Hop heads can finally stop digging through “Bargain Basement” racks and scouring Amazon.com for used copies of this hard-to-find classic as it was re-issued on El-P’s Def Jux label in May (he bought the rights from the now defunct Rawkus and released it in stores and defjux.com).  Originally released in 1997, in the midst of shiny suits, corny samples and the  “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” era “Funcrusher Plus” established itself as the blueprint for the emerging “Underground” or “Independent” scene.  Along with Kool Keith’s “Dr. Octagon” (1996), this album proved that this new breed of MC could put together full albums and not just “white label” 12-in singles and had appeal beyond college radio (shout out to NYU’s WKCR) and lead to the rise of Rawkus records and the eventual development of El-P’s Definitive Jux as one of the most successful independent labels regardless of genre.  

The best adjective to describe “Funcrusher Plus” is DENSE.  The beats are multi-layered and utilize more samples, sound effects and voice snippets per song than any group since Public Enemy, clearly foreshadowing the “buzz saw being cut by a laser beam” sound that El-P would perfect in the early 2000’s and later refine to produce the classic “I’ll Sleep When Your Dead” (2007) and the lyrics are so packed with metaphors and double entendres that long time fans are still figuring them out a dozen years after it’s original release.

While the re-issue of this classic is light on the extra’s usually accompanying similar releases (no expanded liner notes, no remixes, no non-album tracks like “End to End Burners” or “Patriotism”) the album is presented exactly as it was in ’97 (with some subtle re-mastering) and is an absolute “Must Listen” for any fan of underground Hip-Hop...respect the architects.  

Cage; “I Never Knew You (INKY)” EP 


Released as a free, download only, warm-up to for his upcoming “Depart From Me” (July 7th, Def Jux), INKY is 5 songs of the “new” Cage.  While older fans might be disappointed because the new material sounds nothing like “Agent Orange” or “Suicidal Failure” it definitely builds upon the direction he seemed to be taking with 2005’s “Hell’s Winter” and indicates that “DFM” will continue to defy easy categorization.  

All 5 tracks have sonic backdrops that are rock-oriented and lyrics bordering on impressionist poetry, rather than hitting the listener over the head with explicit detail.  This may indicate that “DFM” is going to be an even bigger departure from traditional Hip-Hop than “Hell’s Winter,” but does not mean Cage fell off, but rather has grown as an artist in ways most major label rappers are never allowed.  INKY is a solid appetizer, look for a full review of the entrĂ©e in early July.  

Busta Rhymes: “Back On My Bullsh*t (B.O.M.B.)


I’m not sure exactly when Busta got off his bullsh*t because I thought 2006’s “The Big Bang” was fire, but apparently his label/fans/himself thought it was time to get back on his bullshi*t.  While I have read many negative reviews claiming he is still, in fact, off of his bullshi*t, I have to disagree and firmly state that he is 100%, unequivocally, on his bullsh*t.  

All kidding aside, this is a typical Busta album.  They highs are pretty damn high (“Respect My Conglomerate,” “Hustler’s Anthem ’09” and “Kill Dem”) and the lows are pretty low (“Arab Money” and the 7 or 8 filler tracks usually included in all his releases).  The album itself is not bad and can be played beginning to end on a road trip or during a workout without anything truly awful coming on, but the marketing leaves nothing but questions: why did 2008’s heat rock “Throw The Water On ‘Em” not make the final cut and how did and album containing the smash “Arab Money” (my personal feelings aside, this song was a problem a few months ago), get released to such little fanfare and promotion?  If B.O.M.B. sells poorly it might be time for Bussa Bus to find another label to get the sales/notoriety  he deserves.  

Method Man & Redman: “Blackout” Commemorative Package

“Blackout”: 4

“Blackout 2”: 3

“Packaging”: 3.5

What’s better than listening to two 40 year old guys talk about smoking weed for $9.95? How about listening to the same two guys when they were 30 talk about smoking weed for only $4 more!

At $13.95, this Best Buy exclusive is a bargain.  It contains the original “Blackout” album (1999) a cool box, a small poster and the new “Blackout 2.” There is not much left to be said about “Blackout” ten years after it’s release.  Two talented MC’s got together and released a full length collaborative album (this kind of thing is constantly announced on radio and websites, but rarely comes to fruition) that is solid from beginning to end and ranks up there with the best solo work either legendary MC has done.  

“Blackout 2” is a solid, if unspectacular follow-up. There are a few bangers (“A-Yo,” “City Lights” and “Never Heard Dis B4”), some filler and guest appearances that range from awesome (Rae and Ghost on “Lockdown”) to boring (Ready Roc and some other dude).   Overall, it’s not bad and fans of Johnny Blaze and Funk Doc should check it out to see how the two legends have remained relevant over 15 years since they both hit the scene.  

Slumdog Millionaire


I was interested in this movie because of all the accolades it received on the awards show circuit.  After finally seeing it, I can say it was alright, not great.  It was pretty entertaining but in no effin way better than “The Dark Knight” or “The Wrestler.” If you like watching people struggle (I do) and have an uplifting outcome (I don’t), you need to check out this Oscar winner.